Awhile ago as I was wracking my brain trying to figure a way out of this mess, I realized that I needed a strong ally that would respect my desire to avoid capitalistic patriarchal medicine. The utter contempt and terror I feel towards all medicine and all doctors by now, having failed me and my loved ones so completely, means that I want and need to avoid Western medicine at any and all costs, but where except the hospital or jail can I reasonably expect to end up once I am unable to control my affect or behavior due to the intractable pain and disabling symptoms of my disease? For lack of a better term, as a chronically ill person with an incurable and progressive disease, but one that Western medicine has a vested interest in pretending they are able to treat, I need an “underground railroad”* to rescue me from doctors, nurses, and Western medicine, and I will need help to keep running from them for the rest of my life up to, including and after I become too sick to run. I need an organized, well-funded and politically-minded group of people who will not let this happen to me. And that made me think of the Christian Scientists.
*I understand that my use of the term and concept “underground railroad” is culturally appropriating and that the term refers to a specific historical context, time and place. However, one of the things oppressed people and particularly oppressed (meaning all) women have always needed was help escaping patriarchal medicine including medicalized abuse, medical experimentation and torture which is exactly what I am talking about in the context of “treating” an incurable progressive disease that does not respond to conventional treatment and mine didn’t. If someone knows of a better term or concept for what I am expressing here, I hope they will share it.
The Christian Scientists are well-known and respected in this geographical area and have a strong political presence as I found out when I was called for jury duty shortly after arriving here. Here, disabled and ill people are able to opt out of jury duty with a medical note either from a nurse practitioner, medical doctor, or a practitioner of Christian Science. When I was unable to get in to see a nurse practitioner or medical doctor locally in time to discharge my jury summons I called a Christian Science practitioner in a neighboring town and he was able to give me what I needed. He did not need to examine me, and in fact told me that he was not authorized to examine, diagnose or treat anyone but that he was able to listen to what I was telling him, and to express an opinion based on only an interview that I would be too ill to perform my duties as a juror. The court clerk accepted my note with absolutely no issue and I was permanently removed from the jury pool due to my incurable and progressive disease which would have made serving on a jury or even showing up and participating in jury selection impossible.
As I was nearing the end of my resources to deal with my illness, and began to be desperate to maintain my self-treatment with medical cannabis, I again reached out to the Christian Scientists — this time I hoped that they would have a system in place to “rescue” people in my situation who were going to be forced by friends or family to comply with Western medicine but where Western medicine fundamentally contradicted their own beliefs. I figured there had to be Christian Scientists in my position where people who did not share their beliefs would try to force them to comply with a Western medical treatment plan and that as a politically powerful group they must have a solution for what is probably a common problem.
I remembered the well-publicised legal cases from the 80s and 90s — my childhood and young adulthood — where Christian Science parents refused unwanted Western medical treatment for their children and were prosecuted for this in the sad cases where their children had died. I do not believe that a natural death is anything to run from, and I do not believe that parents should have to stand aside and let capitalistic patriarchal medicine have its gnarly way with their children, even where the children may naturally die. I have just seen too much and I know that there are things much, much worse than a more or less natural death and that being tortured by increasingly “heroic” — and increasingly violent and insane — measures is one of those things that is probably worse than death.
Had they learned something from these legal cases and persecutions/prosecutions of their people, and could they protect themselves from being required to comply individually and on behalf of their sick children? In my mind it would be completely reasonable for them to protect themselves from these outcomes and I knew if I had even a fraction of the kind of money and power they had, that protecting vulnerable people from the worst that capitalism and patriarchy had to offer — including Western medicine — would be at the top of my list. But I soon learned that, as strange as it sounded to me, this politically powerful group did not in fact have any system in place to avoid Western medicine which profoundly conflicts with their beliefs, or at least none that they were willing to share with me.
In the end, the responses I received were interesting but unhelpful. The least helpful were probably the several who responded that Western medical treatments would have no negative effects on my health if I prayed that they wouldn’t, so there was no reason to fear or to try to avoid it. Why they themselves continue to avoid it on behalf of themselves and their children in that case is unclear, but they do believe that the material world is an illusion and that through prayer the mind can heal itself of the illusion that the body is materially ill, whereupon physical and mental diseases are expected to vanish. I can agree that their concurrent belief that they can also cause iatrogenic illnesses and injuries — meaning side-effects and other injuries and illnesses caused by the treatment itself — to vanish in the same way is consistent with that worldview, but their avoidance of Western medicine in that case is not. Of course, as I am not a Christian Scientist, I do not believe I can pray away the harms of capitalistic patriarchal medicine, and having researched my disease and my condition for going on 6 years I know that the conventional treatments cause considerable material harm to patients including so-called side-effects of medicine and iatrogenic diseases and injuries including medical mistakes, opportunistic infections, and death.
I also learned that Christian Scientists have inpatient nursing homes and that these are covered by Medicaid — in these places patients rest and are given necessary assistance with bathing and eating and the like, and a visiting Christian Science nurse prays for and with them for as many hours a day as the patient or their insurance is able and willing to pay. Interestingly, Crohn’s disease is a disease on their list of acceptable conditions for inpatient nursing care — just like it is on the list of sufficiently serious, disabling and untreatable diseases for which medical cannabis is indicated in every cannabis legal state in which I have looked. Everyone, it seems, knows how awful Crohn’s disease is and that it does not respond, respond well, or respond for long to conventional medical treatments that often make patients worse.
In the case of the Christian Science nursing homes however, these facilities are not a permanent solution for chronically ill people who need a restful environment in which to treat their illnesses for the rest of their lives, and are meant to provide temporary assistance only, where the patient is expected to return to full health and vitality after a certain number of days or weeks of assistance and prayer. There simply is no room within Christian Science, apparently, for diseases that are incurable and progressive the way Crohn’s is — I wonder what Christian Science Crohn’s patients themselves think of this and whether they are able to achieve lasting relief and material health from these treatments with assistance and prayer. If they are, it would truly be a miracle. If they aren’t, Christian Science Crohn’s patients will find themselves in the same boat as the rest of us and with all sufferers of chronic and autoimmune disease where we have to pretend we are well, or just shut up about it, because the people around us don’t want to hear about it anymore and don’t believe our suffering is material or real.
I am still struck dumb that a group as well-funded and politically powerful as the Christian Scientists have no system in place to support ill people who do not want to submit to Western medical care as my mind just does not work that way. If I had any resources at all, that is exactly what I would do, and I would’ve started 20 years ago with my own brother who was subject to horrible medicalized suffering and torture for his entire life before he finally, and mercifully, died. I do not understand monied people or monied institutions which do not provide material assistance to politically oppressed people who are suffering and offer them a reliable way to escape.
In the case of Christian Scientists, who have more money and influence than God, could it be that they too are rather powerless to protect themselves against capitalistic patriarchal medicine and that they don’t try to protect themselves because they can’t? Honestly, I would not be surprised. Here in the United States, Western law and medicine have conspired against sick people to trap them in the Western medical system, which is then tied to the criminal law and financial benefits systems, virtually guaranteeing that no oppressed person and no oppressed group will reliably escape.